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Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer? Questions to Ask Your Doctor

As you cope with cancer and cancer treatment, we encourage you to have honest, open discussions with your doctor. Feel free to ask any question that's on your mind, no matter how small it might seem. Here are some questions you might want to ask. Be sure to add your own questions as you think of them. Nurses, social workers, and other members of the treatment team may also be able to answer many of your questions.

Diagnosis Treatment Plan Before, During, and After Treatment

When you're told you have prostate cancer

  • Exactly what type of prostate cancer do I have?
  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
  • What is my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level? What does this mean?
  • What is the cancer's clinical stage and grade (Gleason score)? What does this mean?
  • What are the chances that the cancer has spread beyond my prostate?

  • How does this affect my treatment options and long-term outcome (prognosis)?
  • What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on a treatment?
  • What are my treatment choices?

  • What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What is the goal of my treatment?
  • Is watchful waiting (active surveillance) an option for me? Why or why not?
  • Do I need to have my prostate removed or treated with radiation? Why or why not?
  • If I have surgery (a radical prostatectomy), will the nerve bundles be spared? Will it be laparoscopic or robot-assisted?

  • If I have radiation, what types of radiation therapy might work best for me, external beam or implanted seeds (brachytherapy), or both?
  • What are the pros and cons of radiation versus surgery in my case?
  • What other treatment(s) might be right for me?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that?
  • Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?

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When deciding on a treatment plan

  • What are the chances the cancer will come back with this treatment plan?
  • What would we do if the treatment doesn't work or if the cancer comes back?
  • Will I be able to have children after treatment?
  • How much will I have to pay for treatment? Will my insurance cover any of it?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it involve? Where will it be done?

  • What risks and side effects should I expect?
  • What can I do to reduce the side effects of the treatment?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities? Will I be able to work during treatment?
  • What are the chances that I will have problems controlling my urine (incontinence) or problems getting an erection (impotence)?
  • What are the chances that I will have other urinary, sexual, or rectal problems?
  • Will the treatment hurt? Will I have any scars?

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Before treatment

  • What can I do to get ready for treatment?
  • Will I need blood transfusions?
  • Should I change what I eat or make other lifestyle changes?

During treatment

Once you have decided on treatment, you will need to know what to expect and what to look for. All of these questions may not apply to you, but asking the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?

  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What kind of exercise should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
  • Will I need special tests, such as imaging scans or blood tests, and how often?

After treatment

  • Do I need a special diet after treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What can I do about impotence/incontinence and other side effects? Will I recover normal function? What can I do in the meantime?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • What type of follow-up care will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams and imaging tests?

  • What blood tests will I need?
  • What should my PSA level be after treatment? How long will it take it to get there? What was my last PSA result?
  • How often will my PSA be checked? How long will I have to get PSA tests?
    • My PSA level is still detectable. Does this mean there is still cancer in my body?
    • My PSA level is higher than the last time it was checked. Does this mean the cancer has returned?
  • How will I know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What are my options if the cancer comes back?

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Other questions I need answered

Along with the sample questions you've been given, be sure to ask any others you might have. For instance, you might need to know more about how long it will take to recover from surgery so you can plan your work schedule. Or, you may need to ask about insurance coverage or how you can get help paying for treatment.

Above content provided by The American Cancer Society in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted October 2011

Contact Information

Prostate Cancer Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clincial Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-667-7777
Fax: 617-667-7292